In the Joe Orton diaries, in an entry dated February 1967, Joe Orton discusses with television producer Peter Willes the casting of his play Entertaining Mr. Sloane. The part of Kath, they consider, would really suit Patricia Routledge, but Orton insists with casting director Muriel Cole that for the part of Sloane it should be 'None of these aged juveniles. A very young boy.' In the diary he admits that he almost suggested to her that it be someone 'you'd love to fuck silly' but concedes that she'd probably not understand what he meant.
What the hell does this have to do with Frazer Hines, I hear you mutter? Orton rings Willes up on Sunday 5th February and, after having seen the previous night's edition of Doctor Who, knowing full well that Willes was also gay and would definitely understand where he was coming from, tells him he's spotted 'a little boy' called Frazer Hines in it. 'My word. You are going to enjoy yourself on this production', replies Willes at this casting suggestion.
When I read that diary back in 1986, and that particular mention of Frazer, it struck me that he was, apart from Michael Craze, one of the first young male leads in the series that gay men could innocently fantasise about at the time. Orton, it seems, regularly watched the series and offered, in April 1967, the observation, 'I'm sure the BBC would be horrified that even a science fiction series could be used erotically'. The be-kilted Jamie was probably an object of everyone's affections and still is, I suspect. What a great shame that Orton and Willes didn't approach Hines to take the role in Entertaining Mr. Sloane because it's clear from Hines Sight, a revised biography recently published by Frazer Hines, that he certainly was an emerging talent in the late 1960s.
Mentioning Doctor Who it's probably best to let you know that if you're looking for a book brim full of Doctor Who anecdotes then this isn't it. One chapter focuses on his time in the series and there are some lovely recollections about working with Patrick Troughton and Deborah Watling and later chapters do cover his appearances in The Five Doctors and The Two Doctors. Apparently, his first line to Deborah in The Evil Of The Daleks was 'Quick, Miss Waterfield. Up your passage way' and naturally it was the source of great mirth on the set. The recording of The Evil Of The Daleks also comes across as a series of jokes involving Deborah's knickers, with Patrick, guest star Marius Goring and various Daleks in on the joke and using any opportunity to whip out said article and bring recording crashing to a halt. Frazer clearly adored his time on the series and, like many actors who have appeared in the show as companions, its longevity has ensured that it's long been there somewhere in the background into his later career and has created lasting friendships.
A precocious child he admits, he eventually studied at the Corona Academy with the likes of Richard O'Sullivan ('He always used to get the parts'), Dennis Waterman and Susan George and from the start never seemed to be out of work. Frazer even had the temerity to advise Charlie Chaplin how to make a scene funnier whilst he was shooting A King In New York in 1957 and he later worked with Barry Letts, in his acting days, on the BBC serial The Silver Sword. From an early age he also developed his appreciation of horses, cars and young ladies. If you're looking for the themes that constantly run through the story of his life, and they are well documented here, as well as his acting career its the love of racing, owning horses and breeding them and the turbulent relationships with women that forms the backbone of the book.
He's an honest fella. He clearly adores women and makes no bones about it. It certainly isn't conveyed in a lecherous way and his relationships develop out of a respect and love for his partners rather than callously notching them up as a series of conquests. The impression I came away with was that here was a man who enjoys the company of women, loves them, but is also a bit of an innocent when it comes to understanding his partner's psyche. It's true of everyone in short or long term relationships and men and women can often be rather inscrutable with each other. He's the first to admit that he isn't good at communicating his feelings and thoughts and he's very aware that where both partners are involved in showbusiness, be they actors, presenters or sports personalities, conducting meaningful relationships in the middle of filming schedules in the UK and abroad and long runs in the theatre at the opposite ends of the country is often difficult and can have a damaging effect on both partners' attempts to stay together. Eventually, you can fall out of love with people and he sums that up with a quote from his old mum, 'It's not the sleeping that causes the trouble'.
His marriage to Gemma Craven is painfully unpicked and alas, she doesn't come out of it well. The impression here is of a self-obsessed actress seeking to dictate the terms of the relationship without any consideration for both her and Frazer's careers. The failure to communicate is all too evident and there are moments when Craven displays a Jekyll and Hyde personality that would flummox the most resolute of men. Even after the break up of their marriage, Hines is prepared to let bygones be bygones with Craven and looks for friendship but seemingly finds none to be had. He also offers some fascinating accounts of run-ins with the media as during both the engagement to Craven (which she announced without his consent) and the break-up of their marriage (announced overnight without discussing it with him) he's bundled out of his home in the boot of his friend's car and fights off the various journalistic cheque books asking him to dish the dirt.
Whilst all this turmoil continues, he takes roles in various films (The Last Valley, Zeppelin), theatre productions (name dropping the likes of Michael Caine and Richard Burton along the way) and, of course, becomes a fixture as Joe Sugden at the start of Emmerdale Farm in the early 1970s. There are again lots of stories about the series and his friendships with the likes of Sheila Mercier (playing Annie Sugden and whom he describes as his second mother), Clive Hornby (playing his brother Jack and who tragically died of hypoxia in 2008) and Toke Townley(who played Sam Pearson). He takes us behind the scenes of the infamous aircrash, stunt work under freezing waterfalls and his eventual departure from the show with great frankness.
His love of horses also shines through and there's a lovely recollection of meeting Princess Anne and successfully encouraging her to ride at Epsom and, clearly, as the book covers the later half of his career he pours his energies, and money, into racing and horses, successfully placing the likes of Excavator Lady and Sweet 'N' Twenty. This is all nicely balanced throughout the book but the final chapter about his obsession with cricket is, for me, a trifle self-indulgent and it would have been far better if those stories had been interspersed through out the volume. But I'm being picky there because I simply don't share his enthusiasm for the game.
These elements are successfully woven together with some heart rending family tragedies, the death of his brother Roy is particularly moving, and is a portrait of a man who acknowledges his faults and who has grown in spirit by the time he gets to the epilogue. Overall, Hines comes across as a warm and sensitive person beneath what he himself describes as the outward appearance of a wise-cracking and practical joking 'egotistical boor'. His loyalty and humour is definitely something the Krankies (yes, the Krankies) would agree with judging by their delightful foreword. A brisk, enjoyable but heartfelt and honest book.
The book is published by Frazer Hines himself with the editorial and publishing assistance of David J Howe and Sam Stone and signed editions can be ordered from www.frazerhines.co.uk
Hines Sight: The Life And Loves Of One Of Britain's Favourite Sons - Frazer Hines (Published December 31st - ISBN: 978-1-84583-998-7 - Format: Royal Hardback)
Thanks to www.frazerhines.com for the images.